The Rise of Digital Diplomacy

Making Diplomacy Accessible to the People
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2020 / February

Tina Xie /photos courtesy of Kent Chuang /tr. by Phil Newell


Interpersonal interactions are at the heart of diplomacy, and in the age of social media, technology makes it possible to convey friendship between countries even more rapidly and widely. And it is not just frontline diplomatic personnel who can feel this warmth—every ­netizen can do so too.

Social media not only create an avenue for direct interaction between foreign affairs agencies and citizens, they also make it possible for countries to enjoy a wider range of contacts and closer ties.


In July of 2019, the Department of International Information Services (DIIS) of the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs worked with the Taiwan offices of Facebook to hold a joint “Digital Diplomacy Workshop.” Staff from the DIIS responsible for new media and personnel from foreign countries’ representative offices in Taiwan were invited to attend and discuss their experiences in handling new media.

Speaking for Taiwan through multiple channels

DIIS deputy director-general Volkan C.Y. Huang noted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) is currently active on three social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—and also has a YouTube channel, “Trending Taiwan.”

On Facebook, MOFA’s focus is on day-to-day foreign affairs, using posts to tell fans from Taiwan and abroad about new foreign policies of Taiwan and ongoing inter­national interactions. Instagram is used to tell stories through pictures, often using images that capture the most moving moments of international relations in hopes of evoking Taiwan’s unique value in the international community. In contrast to these two, most Twitter users are from English-speaking countries, and given the platform’s immediate, uncluttered nature, it is often used to express the government’s position on issues of interest.

JW, the Twitter handle of Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Jaushieh Wu, has become a notable mark inter­nationally. Whenever Taiwan is treated unfairly, “JW” will clearly express his views on the issue. Moreover, the MOFA Twitter feed has many followers among foreign political figures, media, and non-governmental organizations, who routinely make contact and interact on social media. Even when their countries have no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, so long as there are shared ideals, these people will speak up for Taiwan at important moments.

The aim of the “Trending Taiwan” YouTube channel, meanwhile, is to tell stories through video to inform the inter­national community about Taiwan’s “soft power.” In 2015 MOFA decided to found this video channel in order to replace abstruse and intricate policy statements with films about people’s daily lives, using narrative videos to promote Taiwan. Trending Taiwan also produces relevant films for major international events in order to extol Taiwan’s ideals and capabilities.

On the eve of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in 2018, Trending Taiwan put out a short film entitled A Perfect Pair about how a Vietnamese girl named Nguyen Thi Loan, who was suffering from elephantiasis in one leg due to lymphedema, was restored to health and started a new life thanks to help from a Taiwanese medical team. Through this story, Taiwan wanted to demonstrate to the World Health Organization our nation’s medical capabilities and determina­tion to contribute to world health, as expressed in the slogan “Health for all—Taiwan can help.” The video attracted over 10 million views, with one-tenth of the viewers coming from Loan’s homeland of Vietnam. Viewers from other nations left comments saying how moved they were by the film, or supporting Taiwan’s participation in the WHA. The Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the US Department of State retweeted the video, indicating their recognition of the quality of healthcare in Taiwan.

Interactivity: The key to managing social media

At the workshop Amanda Mansour, spokesperson of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), shared AIT’s Facebook strategy and summed up the reasons for the rapid increase in the number of fans. In particular, fan numbers grew by at least 20% following a series of activities held in 2019 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act.

Not only has there been a rapid increase in the number of fans on AIT’s Facebook page, its posts show a high degree of interactivity, averaging 3000 to 5000 hits. Looking at their content—the US perspective on Taiwan’s presidential election, an interview at home with the AIT director, Fourth of July celebrations, a Q&A on the US’ “vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific”—the posts all exemplify the four principles advocated by Sharon Yang, a member of Facebook’s Politics and Government Outreach team: timeliness, authenticity, experimenting with new formats, and interactivity (building community).

For the “vision for a free and open Indo‡Pacific,” AIT’s new media team planned out a week of activities, using a Q&A format to help people understand the important concepts underlying the policy and the opportunities for Taiwan‡US cooperation. Even though the content was policy-­oriented, the use of lively illustrations and interactive approaches still drew a great response.

Besides creativity, said Mansour, another key to the success of AIT’s Facebook page has been strategic planning. The new media team at AIT uses short- and long-term activities, series of posts, prize draws, behind-the-scenes stories, and sharing important events in Taiwan‡US relations to give fans something to look forward to, and these fans will then share their favorite posts with other people. Long-term focus on selected themes has enabled AIT to create a fresh image with its friendly, profuse, and knowledge-based presence.

Telling the world about Taiwan

In recent years MOFA has also worked with foreign Internet celebrities so that people in countries not familiar with Taiwan can see Taiwan’s soft power. For example, the Kuwaiti Internet celebrity Abdulkareem Alhendal promoted Taiwanese custard apples via his Instagram account, increasing sales of that fruit in his country. Through this collaborative effort, Abdulkareem Alhendal also experienced the warmth and friendliness of Taiwan, and became a loyal social media fan of MOFA, often sharing Trending Taiwan videos. He even translated the video An SDG a Day into Arabic and shared it on his Instagram; the film, which ­describes Taiwan’s efforts to implement the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, has already drawn more than 1.44 million hits and sparked intense discussion.

“Through Internet celebrities, we can break through filter bubbles and connect with groups of people we never would have reached before,” says José Shao-hua Yang, chief of the Project Management Section at the DIIS. He has discovered from his own experience managing MOFA’s Facebook presence that as a result of filtering by algorithms, the MOFA fan page was finding it difficult to punch through to people with relatively little interest in public affairs, but sharing by Internet celebrities can make Taiwan’s diplomatic efforts visible to more and more people.

Volkan Huang reminds us that “digital diplomacy is not a substitute for conventional diplomacy.” The two must be co­ordin­ated to be effective, because interpersonal inter­actions are the essence of diplomacy.

Taiwan’s digital diplomacy capabilities are growing. Although there are challenges to be faced in terms of manpower allocation and changing attitudes, behind the scenes MOFA’s new media team and editors are using their creativity to raise Taiwan’s visibility in the world. As José Yang puts it: “Through social media, we can build consensus on Taiwan’s foreign affairs positions, and that confidence will help us attract support from around the world!”               

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繁體

數位外交,連結世界

讓人民感受外交的溫度

文‧謝宜婷 圖‧莊坤儒

外交的本質是人與人的互動,在社群媒體時代,科技讓兩國的友誼,更迅速且廣泛地被傳遞出去。這份溫暖,不只有第一線的外交人員感受得到,還有社群裡的每一位網路公民。

透過社群媒體,不只開啟了外交機構與民間更直接的雙向交流,也讓國與國之間產生更多面向、更緊密的連結。


 

去(2019)年7月,外交部國際傳播司(簡稱國傳司)與臉書台灣分公司合作舉辦「數位外交工作坊」,邀請司內新媒體負責人員與各國駐台機構派員共同出席並互相交流新媒體操作經驗。

找回外交機構的「人味」

臉書總公司公共政策暨對外連繫經理Sharon Yang一開場就表示,透過社群行銷並影響群眾是當今的趨勢,據統計,全球每天活躍在臉書的使用者大約有15億人,而台灣則有約1,400萬人。

  透過臉書,外交機構可以與不同面向的群眾建立連結:對內,可以迅速推廣最新外交政策及現況,同時了解民眾的回應;對外,可以與國外不同類型的機構建立多元的連結,利用適合的管道向世界推銷台灣。

外交機構要如何拉近與使用者的距離?Yang分享了四個訣竅:「真實性、互動感、即時性、主題包裝。」過去政府機構所傳遞的資訊多為政策導向,缺乏互動,民眾多半不感興趣,但是,臉書上的影片功能、主題問答、活動直播等,不僅可以增進大眾對外交事務的了解,也可以讓看似冰冷的機構充滿「人味」。

多元管道,為台發聲

國傳司副司長黃志揚表示,外交部目前主要有臉書、推特、Instagram三個社群媒體,還有一個YouTube頻道──Trending Taiwan潮台灣。

臉書主題定調為外交部日常,透過貼文告訴國內外粉絲,台灣外交最新政策及國際交流現況;Instagram則強調用圖片說故事,因此照片常捕捉外交事務動人瞬間,以帶出台灣在國際舞台的獨特價值;相較於前兩者,推特使用者多為英語系國家,加上即時與簡潔的特性,因此常用來表達政府對議題堅定的立場。

外交部長吳釗燮在推特上的署名JW,已經成為國際上獨特的標誌,當台灣遇到不公平的對待,JW就會明確表達對議題的看法,並即時回應。而外交部推特也吸引了許多國外的政要、媒體與非政府組織追蹤,時常在社群網絡中互為連結與互動。即使雙方沒有邦交關係,但只要理念相同,在重要的時刻也能為台灣發聲。

「潮台灣」則希望透過鏡頭下的故事,向國際訴說台灣的軟實力。2015年外交部決定以貼近人民生活的影片敘事來取代艱澀的政策宣達,於是成立了此影音頻道,以故事性的影片宣傳台灣。在許多重要的國際場合,潮台灣也會推出相應的影片,來宣揚台灣的理念與實力。

2018年世界衛生大會(WHA)舉辦前夕,潮台灣就推出影片「阿巒的作文課」,描述罹患象腿病症的越南女孩阮氏巒,在台灣醫療團隊的幫助下,恢復健康並展開新生活。藉由這個故事,台灣想向世界衛生組織(WHO)表達 “Taiwan can help.”(追求普世健康,台灣能有所貢獻)的實力與決心。影片播出後,吸引了千萬人次觀看,其中觀看者有十分之一來自阿巒的故鄉──越南。其他國家的觀賞者也在留言區表達感動並支持台灣加入WHA。美國國務院東亞暨太平洋事務局也在推特上轉發,表達對台灣醫療的肯定。

「駐外使館的串連也是一股強大的力量。」黃志揚表示,當台灣對外有重大決策或聲明時,散佈各國的外交部小編就會同步更新臉書,展現台灣對外的團結精神,例如蔡英文總統的臉書在2018年底換上「勇敢自信,世界同行」的封面後,其他外館的臉書也紛紛跟進。

社群經營關鍵:互動

美國在台協會(AIT)發言人孟雨荷(Amanda Mansour)在工作坊當天也分享了AIT的臉書操作策略,並歸納粉絲頁快速成長的原因,尤其2019年慶祝台美關係法40週年,其系列活動推出後,粉絲至少已經成長20%。

AIT臉書粉專不只有高成長率,也擁有平均每則貼文3,000到5,000的高互動次數。點開他們的貼文:美國對台總統大選看法、AIT處長家中訪談、慶祝美國國慶、「自由開放的印太願景」問答,都使用了Yang所提到的訣竅──即時、真實性、主題包裝與互動。

當時新媒體團隊針對「自由開放的印太願景」規劃了一週的活動,透過問答的方式讓民眾了解政策中的重要觀念與台美合作的機會。即使內容是政策導向,但是透過活潑的插圖與互動的方式,依然獲得民眾熱烈的迴響。孟雨荷驚喜地說,原本擔心這類貼文過於生硬,無法產生互動,沒想到台灣人反應這麼積極。這樣的對比反映出,創意的包裝會讓嚴肅的題材重新定調,使用者也可以輕鬆地接收重大資訊。

除了創意之外,孟雨荷認為有策略的規畫也是粉絲專頁成功的關鍵。AIT新媒體團隊透過短/長期活動、系列貼文、抽獎、幕後故事、台美重要事件轉發,讓粉絲對貼文產生期待、喜愛,進而分享讓更多人看見。長期主題式的經營,讓AIT產生了一個鮮明的形象──親切、豐富、知識性。

找尋夥伴,讓世界了解台灣

外交部近年來也與國外網紅合作,讓不熟悉台灣的國家看見寶島的軟實力,例如科威特網紅阿不都卡苓(Abdulkareem Alhendal)在他的Instagram帳戶上,推銷台灣的鳳梨釋迦,提升了這款水果在當地的銷售量。經過這次合作,阿不都卡苓也感受到台灣的人情味,因此成了外交部的忠實粉絲,時常主動分享「潮台灣」的影片。之前他還自行為影片「寶島酷日常」翻譯阿拉伯文版本,分享至其Instagram,宣傳台灣如何實踐聯合國「永續發展目標」(SDGs),影片點閱率目前已經超過144萬次,並引起熱烈討論。

「透過網紅,我們可以打破同溫層,接觸到一群原本無法觸及的受眾。」國傳司專案管理科科長楊少華從管理臉書的經驗發現,由於演算法的關係,外交部的粉絲專頁原本難以觸及對公共事務較無興趣的民眾,但是,透過國外網紅的分享,台灣的外交工作能被越來越多人看見。

「觀看會產生理解,理解就能爭取支持。」黃志揚認為數位外交的精神在於,找尋理念相同的人,爭取他們對台灣的支持,尤其受到國外的意見領袖(Key Opinion Leader, 簡稱KOL)支持時,會讓更多人肯定台灣的美好與實力。

黃志揚也提醒「數位外交不是用來取代傳統外交,」兩者要搭配使用,才能有最佳效果,因為外交的本質還是人與人的互動。像是去年國傳司首次與與菲律賓、越南、印度與泰國的電視台合作,製播「攜手台灣(Embracing Taiwan)」電視特輯,國傳司依每個主持人國家的特色,帶領他們至台灣的重要景點,例如軟體工業發達的印度被安排至新竹科學園區及南港軟體園區;以工藝設計著名的泰國,到松山文創園區參訪。主持人也前進大學校園,受到來自故鄉學子的熱烈歡迎。拍攝團隊中,有許多人都是初次到台灣,但是都因這次合作也透過各自臉書、IG網頁宣傳在台見聞,讓粉絲對台灣產生好感,對寶島留下了深刻的印象。

台灣數位外交的能量正在成長,即使目前面臨人力調配與思維轉變的挑戰,幕後的新媒體團隊與小編們仍努力用創意讓世界看見台灣,就如楊少華所說:「透過社群,台灣整體凝聚了對外交事務的共識,這份自信會吸引世界來支持我們!」                                                       

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